Now On Blu-ray: Nico Mastorakis' THE ZERO BOYS And HIRED TO KILL
Last year Arrow Video graced the world with a Blu-ray release of the rightly notorious piece of '70's cult madness, Island of Death.
The director of that film, Greek impresario Nico Mastorakis, was little known by films fans outside of cult circles, but Arrow has partnered with Mastorakis to now release a pair of his later works, hillbilly survival slasher The Zero Boys and classic '80's low budget anctioner Hired to Kill. Though neither of these films is anywhere near as infamous as Island of Death, both have something to offer cult film fans, so we decided to take a look.
The Zero Boys
- Nico Mastorakis
- Robert Gilliam
- Nico Mastorakis (screenplay)
- Nico Mastorakis (story)
- Fred Perry
- Daniel Hirsch
- Kelli Maroney
- Nicole Rio
- Tom Shell
Hired to Kill
- Nico Mastorakis
- Peter Rader
- Fred Perry
- Kirk Ellis
- Nico Mastorakis
- Brian Thompson
- Oliver Reed
- George Kennedy
- José Ferrer
Normally, I don't like to let the Blu-ray cover provide a synopsis for me, but I'll make an exception in this case:
For a group of young friends, a weekend of survival games in the wilderness turns into a genuine battle of life and death when one of their number
turns up dead. Finding themselves hunted by a bloodthirsty band of maniacs intent on slaughtering them one-by-one, the self-styled "Zero Boys" must now
play their war games for real. Starring Kelli Maroney (Night of the Comet, Chopping Mall) and featuring an early
score from the legendary Hans Zimmer (Inception, The Dark Knight Trilogy), The Zero Boys mixes
action, survival and all-out slasher movie elements in a thrilling horror yarn that falls somewhere between Friday the 13th and Deliverance.
The Zero Boys is a strange movie. Part survival horror, part hillbilly panic, and part slasher, the film covers a lot of ground in its eighty-nine minute run time. Even though I was the perfect age to be corrupted by this movie when it released in 1986, I somehow completely missed it until Arrow Video sent me the release to review. Looking back, I don't know that my ten-year-old self would have known what to do with this film, but I'm sure glad to have found it as an adult.
A curious mix of grown-up Goonies, Deliverance, and Wrong Turn, The Zero Boys ticks a lot of boxes on my list. The titular crew of weekend warriors feels a lot like overgrown pre-teens, even though they are clearly in their twenties. When they stumble onto someone else's cabin to stay for the night, things start to get bloody and the whole thing takes a decidedly violent and bloody turn.
Mastorakis was no stranger to violence, in fact not only did he make a perverse art of it with Island of Death, he also made a career out of low budget action potboilers in the '80s. But the nature and feel of the violence in The Zero Boys seems very at odds with the film's jaunty opening in a weekend warrior paintball dual. The group finds themselves at odds with a pair of backwoods torture aficionados that eerily echo real life serial murderers Charles Ng and Leonard Lake who terrorized my northern California during my youth.
Lake and Ng were serial sadists who would abduct women to torture and kill in their backwoods cabin all while a video camera rolled to capture their final moments. This was a story that terrified me as a kid, and even though I'd already begun to explore an academic interest in serial killers, this one was literally very close to where I lived, making the fear less academic and more visceral. The Zero Boys was completed fairly shortly after Lake and Ng were caught, so surely they were aware of the methods and incorporated them into the film, imbuing the whole thing with an unusual sense of dread.
That being said, this feels more like a Friday the 13th film than any other slasher series I can think of. Teenagers having fun being interrupted and stalked by bloodthirsty maniacs who just happen to be silent hillbilly sadists sounds like a party to me. It's an unusually successful cross between teenage action/adventure and horror that really worked for me.
Arrow Video does their typical A+ best in their Blu-ray release of The Zero Boys. We're presented with a brand new 4K (!!!) restoration of the film, approved by Mastorakis and it looks fantastic. There is also an uncompressed LPCM stereo track that sounds amazing. I have no issues with the A/V presentation of The Zero Boys, it is quality work.
As usual, Arrow Video goes above and beyond in terms of their commitment to bonus material for The Zero Boys, helped largely by a director who is enthusiastic about sharing his work. We are presented with a new commentary featuring star Kelli Maroney, moderated by Chris Alexander, which is fun as Maroney clearly has an affection for this film. In addition there is a fantastically unique Nico Mastorakis on... Nico Mastorakis featurette in which Nico plays both himself and his inquisitor to a shockingly amusing and insightful degree. Following that up is an interview with Maroney, perhaps best known for her work in films like Night of the Comet and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, who shares her affinity for the film and Mastorakis as a director. Maroney may play a supporting role in the film, but she's clearly the biggest name and she's very appreciative of the cult following of the film. Lastly is an interview with Nicole Rio, who also stars in the film, and provides more positive memories of the experience. Cap it all off with an excellent essay from James Oliver discussing the film, its place in the culture, and the insane crew (Frank Darabont, Hans Zimmer, etc) and you've got a definitive release for a little known film that deserves a bit more love. Definitely recommended.